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Real Estate / Neighborhoods

Houston’s Old School Historic Bowling Alley Shows No Signs of Reopening

Is Palace Lanes Shuttered for Good?

BY Kelly Schafler and Chris Baldwin // 11.02.16
photography Photos by Kelly Schafler

One of Houston’s signature old-school bowling alleys shows no signs of reopening. The doors remain firmly locked at The Bowl on Bellaire (better known as Palace Bowling Lanes). It’s been that way since Oct. 21 when the landlord bolted the doors to the Bellaire Boulevard staple.

A notice on the shuttered door reads: “The landlord for this premises has changed the locks on the entry door due to termination of a right of possession under a written lease agreement and delinquency in payment of rent by tenant.” The notice identifies the tenant as Sparkle Frame LLC, which bought the bowling alley in October. The building itself dates back to the 1960s.

This isn’t an architectural wonder, though. The building’s unremarkable and rather beat up — it seems like the kind of place that opened worn down. But it’s a people place, a good feelings wonder. In an age of fancy new bowling alleys that tout themselves as hip hangouts and cocktail bars, Palace Lanes harkened back to another era. That’s why so many Houstonians are expressing shock and sorrow at its apparent demise.

“I think too often people tend to confuse quality of life as having accumulated wealth,” Reddit user air crisp wrote in a post typical of the passionate comments the bowling alley’s shuttering is drawing. “You can have the former without the later. If all we have is expensive condos and houses and no central meeting locations, what’s the point of having the income we have? Will we only enjoy it with possessions or the latest and greatest luxury restaurant?

“New York has Central Park and a ton of local and old bars Chicago has Grant Park and a ton of local and old bars. I could go on and on but at the rate we are dissolving local institutions in the name of increased wealth through property values without adding a central meeting hang out spot, we are doing ourselves a massive disservice.”

Old school bowling alley fans can no longer turn to Palace Lanes.
Old school bowling alley fans can no longer turn to Palace Lanes.

Instead of touting itself as cool hangout, this old school bowling alley’s still operational (and barebones) website pushes its “44 lanes of fun for the whole family.”

Holiday Gifting

  • Bond No 9 - Perfume
  • Mariquite Masterson
  • Oscar De La Renta - Earrings
  • Loeffler Randall - Clutch
  • Loeffler Randall - Shoes
  • Casa di Lino
  • Bond No 9 - Candle
  • Cle Du Peau - Nail Polish
  • Nocturne Studio
  • Mariquite Masterson
  • Cle Du Peau - Lip Gloss
  • Oscar De La Renta - Clutch

Its longtime name, Palace Bowling Lanes, remains on the building’s exterior. The bowling alley’s own website says the bowling alley was sold to its general manager of 25 years, David Jay, at one point and credits Jay with changing the name to The Bowl on Bellaire (even if he never changed the signage).

PaperCity reached out Jay and was able to contact him on Facebook. Jay wrote back that he cannot comment on the future of Bowl on Bellaire because the “situation is not finalized” and he does not “want to give any wrong or premature information to customers.” Jay declined to talk further on the phone.

Reddit user kevincold84, from the subreddit “Palace Lanes Building on Bellaire Locked Up by Landlord,” tells PaperCity that he received an email from Bowl on Bellaire that apologized for the inconvenience of the closure and suggesting alternative places to bowl in the “meantime.” The email gave no indication of a future reopening.

The alley’s space at 4191 Bellaire Blvd. is in the heart of that area’s reconstruction zone. A fancy new mid-rise apartment complex, Alexan at Southside Place, is going up next door — and it’s easy to imagine this valuable 2.8 acre parcel of land being sold off for a similar fate.

Time waits for no one in Houston. Certainly not for a beloved old-school bowling alley that seemed to be hanging on for years.

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